Huntington High School junior Dominick Stanley was on the last leg of his 10-day spring break Sunday night, riding a coach bus and about to be reunited with his parents after traveling through Eastern Europe.
The jet-lagged 16-year-old was seated in the rear of the bus and was dozing off, as were many of the other students. Suddenly, Stanley felt a jolt.
“I just heard a loud thud,” the Huntington teen recalled Monday afternoon as he stood outside the State Police barracks in Farmingdale. “And I actually thought that we must have hit a pothole or something along those lines. And then I just see, like, the roof just starting to completely cave in and I start tasting, like, fiberglass in my mouth.”
The chartered bus, carrying 38 students and five chaperones as it headed east, crashed into a Southern State Parkway overpass shortly after 9 p.m.
Stanley said glass rained down on him, and he had whiplash and cuts and scrapes on his hands.
“I just immediately knew, like, this is a much bigger deal,” he said.
A spokesman for EF Educational Tours, the company with offices in Massachusetts and Colorado that offers the excursions, said the firm plans to conduct its own review of the crash.
“Above all, we put the safety of our travelers as our top priority, and accidents are incredibly rare” in the company’s 50-plus years of existence, Adam Bickelman told Newsday.
“All of us are shocked and saddened by the serious bus accident . . . our thoughts are with those who were injured,” he said in an emailed statement. “We are doing everything we can to support the students, chaperones, and their families.”
The students, who are from 16 to 18 and mostly from the Huntington area, embarked on the trip March 30, visiting Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Vienna, according to the company.
The trip was paid for by the students and their families — who also cover the travel costs of the “teacher leaders” supervising the students, Bickelman said. The cost of the trip was not immediately available, although an estimate on the company’s website put the cost of a similar trip at more than $3,000 per student, including airfare, hotels, meals and a tour director. Costs vary depending on destination, departure and time frame.
Three of the chaperones — Huntington High School teachers Camille Tedeschi, Erik Bruckbauer and Peter Crugnale — have for years led students on trips to other countries through EF Educational Tours, according to posts on the district’s website.
Tedeschi declined a request for comment Monday, saying she was not feeling well. She did not discuss her injuries. Bruckbauer and Crugnale could not be reached for comment.
The group was coming from Kennedy Airport to the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station to meet up with parents when the crash occurred.
Elizabeth Small was home, in her pajamas, getting ready to pick up her son, Huntington High School junior Matthew Quinn, 16.
“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare, getting a call from your child screaming on the side of the road saying that he’s bleeding and it’s chaos and there’s no ambulances there yet,” Small said. “So it takes your breath away.”
Quinn’s left hand was injured in the crash.
Small said she was left wondering how the driver could have missed the numerous signs prohibiting commercial vehicles on the Southern State.
“It makes you question what went wrong, and obviously the signage isn’t obvious enough or maybe the driver wasn’t professional enough?” she said.
EF Educational Tours contracts with professional coach service providers to assist with transportation to and from the airport, Bickelman said. In this case, the company was Irvington, New Jersey-based Journey Bus Lines.
A spokesman for Journey Bus Lines said the company was concerned about those onboard and their families and has notified its insurance provider.
One student who only identified himself as Jerry — he didn’t want to give his last name — said there was a lot of blood on the bus following the crash. Jerry said he realized the bus was on the parkway — and knew it shouldn’t have been there — but he didn’t have time to alert the bus driver. Jerry also said a car drove near the bus and beeped at it, in what he interpreted as a warning to the bus driver.
“It was just hectic,” he said. “It happened so fast.”
With Rachelle Blidner